Nearly 17 years ago, a great thing happened to Matt Breyer. He got fired.
The 21-year-old had just celebrated his birthday and thought his employer was calling him into his office on a Friday afternoon in November 2001 to compliment him, maybe even increase his salary. Breyer was on a roll, looking forward to his December wedding.
To his surprise, Breyer was castigated for his “lousy work ethic” and shown the door by his boss, a custom homebuilder.
Breyer’s immediate follow-up actions clearly refuted that “lousy work ethic.”
Despite his youth, Breyer, who was homeschooled and attended Lancaster Bible College, had a lot of skills tucked under his belt. On-the-job training since his teens had taught him construction, excavating, landscaping, carpentry and even sign-making.
He also had a list of satisfied customers, so he picked up the phone and lined up several jobs.
By Monday morning, Breyer had started his own business and was on the road to self-made success.
Today, Reading-based Breyer Construction and Landscape LLC, co-owned by Matt and his brother John, employs 20 people and primarily serves Berks County and the Lehigh Valley, the Harrisburg area and the Philadelphia suburbs.
The company was ranked among the top 60 construction remodelers nationwide in customer satisfaction, according to a survey last year by GuildQuality.
And Breyer this year became president of the North American Deck and Railing Association Inc. NADRA, with more than 500 members, is based in Quakertown.
While the firm tackles a variety of construction projects, from kitchens to baths to other indoor endeavors, the majority of its work centers on outdoor living spaces, primarily decks.
“We do between 100 and 150 projects a year,” said Breyer, who lives in Lower Alsace Township, “and 70 percent of our business involves backyard projects.”
FILLING A NICHE
In the early 2000s, Breyer identified a market niche for more expansive residential decks and the very durable composite material that was gaining in popularity and replacing traditional wood decking.
That, combined with the influence of home-improvement television shows, opened a market for his business to survive recessionary challenges of the past decade.
Breyer’s key market area of southeast/southcentral Pennsylvania was less affected than, for example, sections of Florida and Arizona – where big construction booms led to unprecedented economic busts.
OUTDOORS AS PART OF THE HOME
So, while homeowners might have forgone moves to larger abodes, they took notice of the trending open-space concepts to reconfigure existing houses.
“The open concept versus the old compartmentalized rooms,” Breyer said, “and open wins with the overflow going into the outdoor spaces.
“The outdoors is no longer a completely separate entity, it’s a continuation of the home.”
LOTS OF TRAVEL
Learning more about decks and outdoor improvements, including the need for materials training, certifications and hooking up with manufacturers, led to Breyer’s involvement with NADRA.
He’s served on its board for five years, providing a helping hand with codes and education/training. Prior to being elected president, Breyer was treasurer.
After taking office in January, he jumped right into his role, making four trips to regional chapters in that month alone.
His office in Reading’s 18th Ward is almost home to Breyer. In fact, it was the family home until last year when his business and family had grown too large to share quarters.
As NADRA president through 2020, Breyer has a clear vision. He stresses education and training for professionals as well as homeowners.
For example, he emphasizes the need for homeowners to understand the condition of a deck substructure before sprucing up and/or expanding a deck.
Often, there will be a need for new sub-decking, including footers, to support a larger, more complex deck and the weight it will need to bear.
While he’s a big proponent of wood, Breyer cautions that the strength of new wood from sustainable foresting is often compromised by chemicals used for rapid growth.
Breyer is focused on a national as opposed to state perspective for NADRA. He has worked with lobbyists on Capitol Hill and with home inspection organizations.
“I’m learning how to nudge them,” he said, referring to industry regulations.
Kirk Hammond of Atlanta, immediate past president of NADRA, noted Breyer’s leadership.
“Those who are fortunate to meet and work with Matt recognize and appreciate his dedication, values and excellence in every aspect of his life,” Hammond said.
HELPING THE MILITARY
Two major NADRA programs of note are:
The “Check a Deck” program during Deck Safety Month in May.
The “Deck for a Soldier” program in which NADRA members, via donations from affiliated manufacturers, build decks for disabled veterans.
“We have more manufacturers willing to give products than we can use,” Breyer said. “Our greatest challenge is finding active or retired service members who we can help.”
‘LUCKY TO HAVE THEM’
A Mohnton native, Breyer is optimistic about his business and his Berks roots.
“Breyer Construction and Landscape is a clear example of how supporting small businesses in our community can lead to successes that reach beyond our region,” said Jeffrey D. Waltman Sr., a wealth management adviser and president of Reading City Council.
“… We are lucky to have them rooted here and have them as a reminder to support small and growing businesses in all ways possible.”